Cleveland Clinic Names New Transformation and Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute Leadership

Thursday, January 9, 2020
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Cleveland Clinic announced the appointment of Thomas E. Mroz, M.D., as chair of its Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute and James Merlino, M.D., to the newly created post of Chief Clinical Transformation Officer.


Thomas E. Mroz, M.D.

In his new role, Dr. Mroz will oversee more than 478 caregivers and 125 staff physicians who comprise Cleveland Clinic’s Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute.

Dr. Mroz currently serves as the director of the Center for Spine Health and director of the Spine Research Lab. Prior to his appointment, he joined Cleveland Clinic as a staff physician in 2004. He specializes in all aspects of spinal surgery and has a dedicated interest in minimally invasive surgery and cervical spine surgery, including radiculopathy, myelopathy, stenosis, disc herniations, cervical disc replacement, revision cervical surgery, cervical infections, cervical tumors and cervical deformity.

“I am honored to have the tremendous privilege to lead a renowned group of physicians and caregivers,” says Dr. Mroz. “The Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute has a history of amazing patient care and exceptional education, academic and innovative performance. I’m looking forward to working with this talented team to develop and adopt new technologies and capabilities that I believe will help define rheumatologic and orthopaedic care nationally.”

Dr. Mroz is active in research, and he has lectured nationally and internationally on minimally invasive surgery and cervical spine surgery. He has authored over 400 research articles and abstracts in the peer-reviewed medical literature, and he serves currently as Deputy Editor of the Global Spine Journal and The Spine Journal.

He has been a leader in orthopaedics and organized spine surgery throughout his career. In addition, he has served on governing boards of several academic societies and has chaired many national and international meetings.

Dr. Mroz is currently a board member of the North American Spine Society and serves as its chairman of the Continuing Medical Education Committee. Dr. Mroz is also a diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He continues to have a very active role in the education of medical students, residents and fellows as a clinical faculty member of Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.

He attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. He completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C., and two fellowships, one at the University of California, Los Angeles, focusing on spinal surgery and the other in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, focusing on minimally invasive spine surgery.

Dr. Mroz succeeds Brendan M. Patterson, M.D., who served as interim chair since 2018. Dr. Patterson is also chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and will continue in that role.


Cleveland Clinic Names James Merlino, M.D., Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, effective Dec. 1, 2019.


James Merlino, M.D.

In this position, Dr. Merlino will oversee the Office of Patient Experience, Enterprise Quality & Safety and the Office of Continuous Improvement. He will report directly to Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D.

Dr. Merlino is returning to Cleveland Clinic, where he served as a colorectal surgeon, Chief Experience Officer and Associate Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2014, after nearly five years at Press Ganey, most recently as its Chief Transformation Officer.

“By welcoming Dr. Merlino back to Cleveland Clinic, we’re gaining a national expert in the fields of patient experience and quality and safety,” Dr. Mihaljevic says. “His experiences make him uniquely qualified to lead our clinical transformation program and to continue building on our successes in quality, safety, and patient experience.”

At Press Ganey, Dr. Merlino served as President and Chief Medical Officer of the strategic consulting division since 2015, taking on the expanded role of Chief Transformation Officer in 2018, where he led the development of an integrated organizational strategy to broaden the definition of patient experience to include safe, high-quality, and patient-centered care situated on a foundation of an aligned and engaged healthcare culture. He has led transformational strategy engagements with more than 70 of the nation’s largest healthcare organizations.

“It’s wonderful to be back at Cleveland Clinic,” Dr. Merlino says. “Press Ganey is at the forefront of transformational strategy, and I’m excited to use my experience with them to help execute the bold strategic vision laid out by Dr. Mihaljevic. Our No. 1 goal as healthcare providers is to improve the environment for patient care and caregivers, which is only possible through a critical interdependence of safety, quality and the experience of care.”

Dr. Merlino holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baldwin-Wallace College and a medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He completed his general surgery training at University Hospitals of Cleveland and his colorectal surgery fellowship at Cleveland Clinic.

In 2013, HealthLeaders Magazine named Dr. Merlino as one of “20 people who make healthcare better,” and Becker’s Hospital Review listed him among the top 50 experts in healthcare safety four years in a row (2015–2018). In 2014, he released his first book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way and is an editor of Zero Harm: How to Achieve Patient and Workforce Safety in Healthcare, released in 2018.

His wife, Amy Merlino, M.D., is Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Medical Information Officer and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic.